“What are we?” we ask to launch the DTR (Defining the Relationship) Talk.
Exclusivity is nice. It gives us a sense of security and hope for a future together. It feels good to be “claimed” — to have your “person”.
Sometimes our brains are so eager for the structure and clarity that labels provide that we don’t unpack what it means to be exclusive.
What needs will be met exclusively by this person and what we will exclusively provide?
Uncovering this is the whole point of the dating or “talking” phase.
We date to get to know (most often) a complete stranger and assess if they have it in them to meet our needs and if we can understand and meet theirs. It takes different experiences; it takes different environments. It takes time.
What’s the rush to be “official”?
Before jumping into a commitment, ask yourself:
Is there anyone else I’d rather be with?
After watching The Great Gatsby and The Summer I Turned Pretty on a flight, I noticed the theme of both main characters having impending emotional ties with people they could not have while stepping into new relationships that were attainable.
If there is anyone you think of with whom you would rather be than the person you’re dating, then it might be a good idea to give yourself some time to grieve and accept what you can’t have.
It would be unfair to everyone for someone in your past to walk back into your life and hold the power to disrupt it.
Can I make room in my life for someone else?
Relationships take a balance of selfishness and selflessness to care about your needs as well as someone else’s. Can you create space?
· Physical space (in your car, home, etc.)
· Emotional space (empathize beyond yourself)
· Mental space (give thought to other + the relationship)
· Social space (time in your schedule, compromising on activities and people).
Think about how you show up for the people in your life and if you have the emotional capacity considering what’s on your plate. Maybe you get lost in your own world in a way that blinds you from how those around you might need you — too consumed to send “safe flight” to a friend.
The prerequisite to being a good partner is being a good person.
If your plate already feels full, a relationship will only pile on and feel like a “burden”.
What does your life look like? Do you file your taxes? Can you afford your bills? Are you chronically late or absent to social gatherings because you were napping or “not in the mood”? When life comes at you fast, do you shut people out?
Might a partner become a “nag” for encouraging you to do better?
What do I want a partner for?
This is a little different from what do I want in a partner which most of us can list off without taking a breath.
Do you want a partner for companionship to avoid your loneliness? Do you want a project to avoid focusing on yourself? Do you want an equal? Are you cushioning a heartbreak or keeping busy till the next best thing? Do you want to build a family, a community, an empire?
When you’re clear on what you’re looking for from a partner, you’ll be clearer in identifying if the person in front of you is for you. You will also be clear on whether to set them free and focus on yourself/ healing.
When you’re chasing a satiety that only you can satisfy, even the perfect partner won’t be enough.
What am I committing to provide to you and receive from you exclusively?
What you provide and receive don’t have to be the same thing. It’s based on each of your needs and love languages.
Some of us are looking for our partners to play God in our lives:
- We come to the relationship weary and burdened, and expect another to give us rest (Matthew 11:28)
- After a few short weeks, we expect this stranger to go with us; never leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
- We want them to be all-knowing, all-powerful, and supremely good (omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence).
We want a sounding board, thought-partner, mind-reader, career coach, life coach, prayer partner, cheerleader, therapist, lover, and best friend. No one can always deliver at 100% for each. Prioritize what is important to you to receive and what you can give.
Ultimately, there’s no timeline for exclusivity. You don’t want to rush into a subpar relationship just because there’s a label to it.
This process of exploring and evaluating a potential partner can take weeks, months, and even years. Some people date multiple people during this time, while others focus on one person while prioritizing other areas of their lives.
After jumping into a relationship within weeks twice, I’m learning to give myself time to make room for a person and take them in as they are, beyond my projections and their potential.
“If we’re going to be dating anyway, might as well be exclusive, so sure,” I told myself.
I’ve learned there is a different expectation of “my boyfriend” than there is of “a guy I’m seeing.” One is in the inner circle, one gets access to me, my friends, my network, and my world in a way that the other does not.
Think of dating as a data collection phase. Sometimes the answer to the question of exclusivity is “insufficient data collected”. Other times, no additional amounts of data will change the findings — make the leap in or out.
Throughout the experience, keep track of whether your quality of life has improved since they came into it; if you laugh more, stress less, learn deeper, and are inspired to greater. Make sure you even like the person you are considering making a partner.
Thank you for reading! If you’re wondering why I’ve been publishing less frequently, here’s why (still writing every day, just a lot in the drafts pile).
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This post was previously published on medium.com.
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